Freshmen Home Runs Leads Villanova to Sixth Straight
March 20, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Villanova (17-4) finished off a sweep of the La Salle Explorers (4-14) with an 8-5 victory at La Salle University in Philadelphia on the strength of the first career home runs from freshmen Beth Smetana and Randi Josett. Sophomore Kaity Sitzman (1-0) earned the win in her first start of the season and three relievers helped close out the game. The Villanova offense churned out 11 hits, two a piece from seniors Kristi Burlin and Tessa Braga.
Villanova went down in order to start the game after starting game one of the doubleheader with eight runs in the first three innings. In the bottom of the first, Sitzman surrendered a lead-off single, but junior catcher Amanda Marquez forced that runner out on an attempted sacrifice attempt for the first out of the inning. Another single extended the rally, but Burlin snagged a fielder's choice for the second out and Sitzman made the final putout of the frame on a groundball back to the mound to send the game to the second inning at 0-0.
Burlin reached by a walk to lead off the second inning and was advanced to second base on a good bunt from senior designated player Molly Manning, but a strikeout and fly out stranded Burlin at second. Sitzman earned her first strikeout of the day to lead off the bottom of the second and worked around a two-out walk to start the game with two shutout innings.
Villanova struck in the third inning in a big way after being held scoreless for five straight innings going back to game one of the doubleheader. Sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe walked to lead off the inning and advanced to second on Braga's first single of the day. Marquez then stepped in and picked up where she left off in game one with a double to left field that scored Lowe as Villanova picked up the early 1-0 advantage. With two runners in scoring position, junior left fielder Taylor Olafson reached on an error that scored Braga and advanced Marquez as Villanova had runners on the corners with one out and a 2-0 lead. The Wildcats then played sound fundamental ball and got back-to-back sacrifice flies from junior first baseman Valerie Ortega and Burlin following an Olafson stolen base. Villanova led 4-0 through two and a half innings.
The Explorers broke through in the third inning with their first run of the year against Villanova in their third game against the team. A lead-off single followed by a sacrifice bunt put a runner in scoring position with one out. The next hitter struck a single to left center field to score the first La Salle run of the day and Villanova's lead was sliced to 4-1 through three innings.
The Wildcats didn't wait long to get the run back as freshman Beth Smetana stepped to the plate with one out in the top of the fourth and crushed a solo home run to left center field to extend Villanova's lead back to 5-1. Sitzman shut down the Explorers in the fourth after giving up a lead-off single, which closed the book on her day in the circle. Sitzman surrendered five hits and one run while striking out two and walking one.
Villanova was able to generate some two-out offense in the fifth as Ortega and Burlin singled before Josett walked to load the bases, but freshman Briana Fujii grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat. In the bottom of the fifth, freshman Ali Angelbello came on for her second appearance of the day and following a lead-off single and a run-scoring double, she settled down to strike out two of the next three hitters and retire the Explorers while maintaining a 5-2 Wildcat lead.
Freshman Kera Pezzuti and Tessa Braga each singled in the sixth, but a caught stealing, groundout, and flyout ended the inning without the Wildcats adding any more insurance runs. However, Angelbello put together another scoreless inning to hold onto the three-run lead heading into the seventh.
In the seventh, senior left fielder Shannon O'Brien singled down the left field line, but was erased when Ortega grounded into a fielder's choice. Burlin stroked her second single of the day through the left side to put two runners on with one out for Josett. She made the at bat count when she blasted a three-run home run to straight away center field to blow the game open as Villanova now led 8-2 needing just three more outs.
Junior Adrienne Drummond came on for her second relief appearance of the day, but ran into a little trouble. She walked the first hitter before getting a groundout, but then walked the next hitter to put two runners on with one out. Drummond then surrendered a three-run home run to cut Villanova's lead in half at 8-5. They were the first runs Drummond has given up in her three appearances this season. The coaching staff then called on Molly Manning to get the final two outs and she did just that by inducing a flyout and strikeout to finish out a sweep of the La Salle Explorers.
The win is the sixth in a row by the Wildcats and their 15th in their last 16 games.
The Wildcats will be in action again this weekend at a tournament at the University of Pennsylvania. Their first game will be Saturday vs. Rider at 10 a.m. followed immediately by a game against Army.
NOTES: Josett's home run was the seventh of the season for Villanova...Marquez leads with two...Briana Fujii failed to get a hit for her 14th straight game as her streak comes to an end...Senior Jamie O'Hara still has a 15 game hit streak, but has not played in the last six...The Wildcats rank 2nd in the conference in runs per game at the start of this week...Villanova now has 31 stolen bases through 21 games...O'Hara leads with 7 with Taylor Olafson in second with 6...Today's second victory was the team's 17th in the first 21 games...In the 2011 season, Villanova had 16 wins in 49 games.